Sony enhances search, social networking with SharePoint 2010

Sony Electronics, the division of Sony Corporation that designs and develops the company’s cameras, computers, TVs and other devices, is making a broad move to SharePoint 2010 to improve search, social networking and document sharing.

Over the past few years, there’s been a big push in the Sony Electronics IT group to migrate more content into SharePoint, first from the 2003 version to the 2007, and now from 2007 to SharePoint 2010.

“Between late 2007 to mid-2009, we grew from five SharePoint site collections to over 400,” says Jim Whitmoyer, business applications manager at Sony Electronics.

With 180,000 employees spread around the world, Sony Electronics looked to the new version of SharePoint to improve on the social networking and document sharing features in the 2007 version.

Sony was an early adopter of SharePoint 2010 and has been poring over the product’s enhanced social features for a year now. “Wikis are a big interest to us,” says Whitmoyer. “Employees were saying that the wiki feature in SharePoint 2007 was not easy to work with. Microsoft has addressed those issues. The wikis in SharePoint 2010 are better.”

Sony looked at some pure-play social networking companies that integrate with SharePoint, such as NewsGator and SocialText, but decided that SharePoint 2010 “offered broad enough social tools that we didn’t see value in bringing in other technologies,” says Whitmoyer.

Here are three key ways, including social networking, that Sony is using SharePoint 2010.

FASTer Search

Microsoft has integrated the technology from its 2008 acquisition of enterprise search company FAST into SharePoint 2010 to provide more refined search.

Whitmoyer frequently got complaints from Sony employees that search queries within SharePoint 2007 would return thousands of documents that were difficult to wade through.

“The inclusion of FAST search has been a big deal. We’ve received lots of positive feedback from employees,” says Whitmoyer.

The FAST search filters results by documents type, by author, or within a certain site collection or time period, narrowing thousands of documents down to a dozen. It also features people results for search terms, so if someone in a company is an expert on a subject, their profile will show up in the results.

Social Networking With MySites

Though Sony was using SharePoint 2007 for document management, it was hardly using My Sites — personal websites for users that provide a set of social networking features.

With the recent popularity of social media sites and with hiring more younger workers, Sony wanted to use My Sites to bring the company into a more progressive workstyle.

“All our worlwide users are dealing with the conflict of distance,” says Whitmoyer. “But SharePoint 2010 provides better social connections and richer profiles through My Sites. So if someone is searching for a subject they can get help from colleagues quickly.”

SharePoint 2010 represents an opportunity to remake the Sony landscape, says Whitmoyer, where employees will chat and post on discussion boards instead of e-mailing, and use wikis instead of tracking revisions made to various Microsoft Word docs sent as e-mail attachments.

“In my group we are all posting reports to our wiki instead e-mailing Word docs around,” he says. “I have alerts when people who work for me add new pages to the wiki and my boss has alerts when I add new pages.”

The merging of SharePoint with OCS (Office Communications Server) has also been a boon for Sony as a way to communicate easier and curb the reliance on e-mail.

“If I see someone in SharePoint, with OCS and Presence, I can just do a quick IM chat instead of sending three or four e-mails back and forth,” says Whitmoyer.

To appease Sony’s legal department, employees have to sign a user agreement before creating a My Site page that basically states they agree to act professionally and not post inappropriate content.

Document Sharing Inside and Outside Firewall

Sony is also using SharePoint 2010’s document management features to resolve the dreaded circle of confusion that comes with e-mailing documents.

“We’ve been preaching about sending links to each other instead of documents,” says Whitmoyer.

One issue Sony is still has not worked out is how to accommodate mobile users who can’t access SharePoint because it is only on Sony’s intranet.

But this is not a problem on employees’ personal computers because of SharePoint Workspace, a feature that gives users offline access to SharePoint sites. Any changes made locally on a computer not connected to the corporate network will sync up with the SharePoint server, done either automatically or manually.

Sony is also considering Microsoft’s BPOS (business productivity online services) suite, which includes online versions of Exchange and SharePoint, so that mobile users and even customers can share documents online.

“We’ll leave sensitive company data on the client version of SharePoint, and use SharePoint Online for better collaboration with customers and partners,” says Whitmoyer.

Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at


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